Nigeria decades ago. Malanga is a fried appetizer/snack made from grated coco yams and eggs lightly season with spices (usually, salt, garlic and eggs…I like to add a tiny bit of ginger to give it an extra zing and reduce the sliminess of the produce). Even though back home in Nigeria an identical snack is a form of ‘street food’ which I indulged in regularly, I was surprised that it was served at a popular tourist restaurant in Havana as an appetizer. The emotions that were awaken by tasting this food was indescribable. It was as if, I could connect with these people (CUBANS) whom I had be indifferent towards the very moment I entered the country. Albeit, this indifference was sparked by the harrassment I received at the hands of the customs at the airport for being a Cuban look-alike (since when is that a cause for harrassment?) But, I digress, all annoyance created by this inconvenience changed as soon as I tasted Malanga. Aside from the fact that it was delicious, my feeling was nostalgic because it reminded me of home in Africa, my familiar place, my roots. It was like they - Cubans - were now my friends that I had left back home in Nigeria decades ago and Cuba the country was now my home. My indifference turned to fondness. Eating malanga in Cuba confirmed to me that there is more that unites humanity than that which divides.Recently, I had the opportunity to taste frituras de malanga (or malanga for short) and realized it was exactly the same thing that I used to eat back home in
The food of one unfamiliar place can stimulate feelings and emotions of our own culture, of all that we respect and love. Could sharing food more often have the potential to cure some human intolerance? Ok, I know what you are thinking, universal unity through food is a bit of a stretch but think about it…in a world where strife, racism and wars are destroying lives because of the consequences of differences/indifference or intolerance we all could use a little flavour from someone else’s culture. Food is the chain that binds us all. So, I say: try it more often. Bon Appétit.